‘Not Canada we want to be,’ Trudeau says after arson attack at Vancouver shul

“This deliberate act of hate was an attempt to intimidate our Jewish community,” stated religious and organizational leaders.

Schara Tzedeck, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Vancouver, Canada, that was firebombed on May 30, 2024. Credit: Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
Schara Tzedeck, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Vancouver, Canada, that was firebombed on May 30, 2024. Credit: Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.

No one was injured and there was minimal damage to a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Vancouver whose doors were set on fire on Thursday night, Jewish communal leaders stated.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, called the bombing—the third against a Jewish institution in the country in the past week—“another disgusting act of antisemitism.”

“We cannot let this hate or these acts of violence stand,” Trudeau said. “This is not the Canada we want to be.”

“Antisemitic rhetoric has reached a feverish pitch in our city and region recently, and it has always been our concern that the next step would be violence,” stated the senior rabbi and president at Schara Tzedeck, and executives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.

Someone poured gasoline by the doors of the Modern Orthodox synagogue and set it aflame around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, according to the leaders. “We extend our steadfast support to the families and staff of Congregation Schara Tzedeck,” they said.

“Enough is enough. This is the third Jewish community institution in Canada to be violently targeted—this week alone,” Nico Slobinsky, vice president of the Pacific region at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told JNS. (CIJA is an agency of the Jewish Federations of Canada.)

“We have long warned that the antisemitic rhetoric that has been allowed to fester on our streets, on campus and online would evolve into real physical threats to our community,” Slobinsky said. “From words, we are now facing bullets and fire. These events have been allowed to happen in the absence of a plan to combat antisemitism by the provincial government.”

“They must clearly and publicly communicate how they will ensure the safety of the Jewish community,” he told JNS. “The time for words is over and the time for action is now.”

Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt and Jonathon Leipsic—the shul’s senior rabbi and president, respectively—and the Jewish Federation’s Lana Marks Pulver (board chair), Ezra Shanken (CEO) and Jason Murray (security advisory committee chair) signed the letter.

They said the Vancouver Police Department and the city’s fire inspector searched the building and declared it safe to reopen. The police department will continue to investigate, the Jewish leaders added.

The shul, which opened in 1907 and whose membership is more than 500 families, is Vancouver’s oldest and largest Orthodox synagogue.

Police are increasing patrols around the British Columbia city’s Jewish organizations and the Jewish Federation’s security advisory committee “is staying on top of the situation and will update Jewish community organizations as needed,” the five leaders stated.  

“Community security has long been one of our strategic priorities, and we remain committed to working together to keep Jewish community institutions safe and welcoming places where you and your family can feel comfortable taking part in community activities,” they added.

‘I am heartbroken for all of us’

Melissa Lantsman, a member of the Canadian Parliament who is Jewish, wrote that this was the third Jewish Canadian institution targeted in a week.

“Thoughts and prayers won’t fix the rabid unchecked antisemitism,” the politician posted. “Jew haters now feel emboldened to say what they always believed in this country—because they can. They feel empowered.”

Michal Cotler-Wunsh, the Israeli special envoy for combating antisemitism, wrote that hate is being normalized.

“A third Jewish institution targeted in Canada in a week, this time a synagogue in Vancouver,” she wrote. “A result of unchecked lethal antisemitism—on campuses, on social media, in the streets—and leadership that not only tolerates the intolerable but fuels it.”

Deborah Lyons, Canada’s envoy on antisemitism and a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, wrote that Schara Tzedeck is “a warm, caring synagogue community—one which includes many Holocaust survivors—and I am heartbroken for them, and for Jews in Vancouver, all over B.C. and across Canada. I am heartbroken for all of us.”

“The real awakening needs to be the vast silent majority of us who know that enough is enough: Incendiary rhetoric leads to incendiary violence,” she wrote. “It is past time to stand up.” 

“Every level of government must use the levers at their disposal to deal with this emergency,” she added. “That means enforcing the law—not allowing incidents of hate to go unanswered. It means that incitement and violent rhetoric must be met with consequences. It means that capitulation to unreasonable or threatening demands must end.”

“This disgusting act of antisemitism is reprehensible and has absolutely no place in British Columbia,” wrote David Eby, premier of British Columbia. “We stand with the Jewish community in B.C. and unequivocally condemn antisemitism and all forms of hatred.”

“There is no justification for a synagogue to be attacked. None,” wrote Taleeb Noormohamed, a parliamentarian who represents Vancouver. “We must keep fighting the rise in antisemitism—together.”

“Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, are Jews safe anywhere in Canada?” wrote Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. “When people tell you they plan to ‘globalize the intifada,’ believe them!”

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